Features of a Relational Approach to Psychotherapy

  • should lead to humility toward clients, not arrogance of the “expert”
  • relationships, especially interpersonal ones, are the most crucial aspects of life and living – we agree with Freud’s “love and work” as long as both are viewed as serving to help a person become part of a healthy community
  • we all want (need?) to belong and be part of something larger than ourselves – if some-one is enjoying satisfying relationships and feels assured of being part of some greater whole, they do not ask for (nor need) therapy (e.g., Curtis O’Banion)
  • fear of rejection, the fear that we do not belong, are not accepted, or have no meaningful relationships is the greatest fear and anxiety of all clients must be understood “thickly” – i.e., in relation to their interpersonal, temporal, situational, and moral contexts, which include the interpreting therapist part of the temporality of all contexts is possibilities, implying that a contextual agency is important (along with the responsibility assumption that this implies)
  • the more “full-blooded” the therapeutic discussion or experience (e.g., particular, real, contextual) the more potential for true learning and change the therapist’s relationship with the client is the most pivotal aspect of therapy and can be focused upon to yield change to focus upon this relationship the “here and now” is useful, especially if attended to in an authentic manner (along the lines of Guignon)
  • abstractions (theory, principles) are important but are only important secondarily – i.e. they should be derived from thick particulars relationships are not fundamentally based on sameness – difference and otherness are vital to individual identity and intimacy – this implies that we must find ways of accepting and loving the otherness of the Other
  • others are never reducible or capturable – we (including therapists) must be humble about our conceptions and perceptions because they are always incomplete, implying the importance of others in our community meaning is central because it requires connection and engagement in the world, not to mention connectedness to temporality (past, present, and future) of one’s life narrative